Best artists in hip-hop and R&B
At the beginning of 2018, Nielsen reported that for the first time in history, hip-hop had surpassed rock as the most popular music genre in the country. In 2017, eight of the 10 top artists were from the hip-hop/R&B genre, with Drake and Kendrick Lamar taking the first and second spot, respectively. This year continues to see more hip-hop and R&B acts dominating the charts and airwaves, so Stacker decided to take a look at the genre’s most successful musicians over time.
Using data from Billboard, Stacker ranked the best all-time artists in hip-hop and R&B.These rankings are based on weekly performance on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart from its Oct. 20, 1958 inception through Feb. 25, 2017, and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart from its Jan. 30, 1965 inception through Feb. 25, 2017.
Songs and albums are ranked based on an inverse point system, with weeks at #1 earning the greatest value and weeks at lower spots earning the least. Due to changes in chart methodology over the years, eras are weighted differently to account for chart turnover rates over various periods. Artists are ranked based on a formula blending performance, as outlined above, of all their Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart entries.
Read on to see how your favorite artists rank.
#50. The Whispers
The Los Angeles-based group made up of identical twins Wallace "Scotty" and Walter Scott, Gordy Harmon, Marcus Hutson, and Nicholas Caldwell, began making R&B hits in the late 1960s, and have since been inducted into The Official R&B Music Hall of Fame (2014). Their biggest hits include “Rock Steady” and "Seems Like I Got To Do Wrong" in 1970.
#49. Natalie Cole
The singer, songwriter, and actress was the daughter of the legendary crooner Nat King Cole, but rose to prominence on her own in the mid-1970s. Thanks to her many successful albums and big hits, including "This Will Be," "Inseparable" (1975), and "Our Love" (1977), Cole went on to win a total of seven Grammy Awards.
Tupac Shakur or “2Pac” has been considered one of the greatest rappers of all time. His debut album “2Pacalypse Now” in 1991 launched him into instant notoriety in the West Coast hip-hop scene, as he rapped about social issues. He was later hailed for subsequent albums “Me Against the World” (1995), and “All Eyez On Me” after his death. An unknown shooter murdered him in Las Vegas in 1996. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017.
#47. The Gap Band
The band from Tulsa, Oklahoma, was made of brothers Charlie, Ronnie and Robert Wilson, and rose to prominence in the late '70s and early '80s. Their third album, “The Gap Band III” was a breakthrough for the trio, as it contained the hit soul ballads "Yearning for Your Love," "Burn Rubber on Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)," and "Humpin.'" The group performed together for 43 years.
#46. The Spinners
R&B group The Spinners formed in Detroit in 1954 and were made up of Billy Henderson, Edgar Edwards, Bobby Smith, Henry Fambrough, and Pervis Jackson. They reached their peak commercial success in the 1970s, with their first post-Motown album, “Spinners” (1972). Hit singles included "I'll Be Around," "How Could I Let You Get Away," "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love," and "One of a Kind (Love Affair)." They have continued to stay active and tour (with one original member, Henry Fambrough) to this day.
#45. The Impressions
This top soul act of the 1960s started in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and included Sam Gooden, Curtis Mayfield, and Fred Cash. Mayfield pursued a solo career in 1970, but the band added more members and were later inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. They were 1998 Grammy Hall of Fame inductees for their hit "People Get Ready," which was adopted as an inspirational anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.
#44. Isaac Hayes
Singer, producer, and songwriter Isaac Hayes was one of the powerhouses behind soul music label Stax Records. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 and later the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. His song written with David Porter, “Soul Man,” is likely his most famous. His score for 1971’s “Shaft” made him the third African-American, after Sidney Poitier and Hattie McDaniel, to win an Academy Award.
#43. Rick James
Singer-songwriter and R&B artist Rick James peaked with his album “Glow” in 1985, and produced such hits as “Super Freak,” “Mary Jane,” and “Give It To Me Baby.” He was also featured on the popular '80s TV show “The A-Team.”
#42. Smokey Robinson
The singer, songwriter, and record producer Smokey Robinson was the founder and lead singer of the Motown group the Miracles, vice president of Motown Records, and later a solo artist in his own right in the '70s and '80s. Hits with the Miracles include “Shop Around,” "I Second That Emotion," "The Tracks of My Tears," and "You've Really Got a Hold on Me." He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and Robinson was awarded the 2016 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for his lifetime contributions to music.
The New York-based soul/funk group Cameo started as a 14-member group (known as the New York City Players) and later changed their name to Cameo with 10 members. In the 1980s, the height of Cameo's career, they released the album “Word Up!” which featured the hits "Word Up!" and "Candy."